Inhabitants of the Worlds

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Written by Sir John Woodroffe, Book: Introduction to Tantra Sastra 


THE worlds are inhabited by countless grades of beings, ranging from the highest Devas (of whom there are many classes and degrees) to the lowest animal life. The scale of beings runs from the shining manifestations to the spirit of those in which it is so veiled that it
would seem almost to have disappeared in its material covering. There is but one Light, one Spirit, whose manifestations are many. A flame enclosed in a clear glass loses but little of its brilliancy. If we substitute for the glass, paper, or some other more opaque yet transparent
substance, the light is dimmer. A covering of metal may be so dense as to exclude from sight the rays of light which yet burns within with an equal brilliancy. As a fact, all such veiling forms are māyā. They are none the less true for those who live in and are themselves part of the māyik world. Deva, or “heavenly and shining one”— for spirit is light and self-manifestation—is applicable to
those descending yet high manifestations of the Brahman, such as the seven Śivas, including the Trinity (trimūrti), Brahma, Viṣṇu, and Rudra. Devī again, is the title of the Supreme Mother Herself, and is again applied to the manifold forms assumed by the one only Māyā, such as Kālī, Sarasvatī, Lakṣ mī, Gaurī, Gāyatrī, Saṃ dhyā, and others. In the sense also in which it is
said,1 “Verily, in the beginning there was the Brahman. It created the Devas”; the latter term also includes lofty intelligences belonging to the created world inter-


1 Bṛ hadāranyaka Up. (ix. 2-3-2).


mediate between Īśvara (Himself a Puruṣ a) and man, who in the person of the Brāhmaṇ a is known as Earthdeva (bhūdeva).1 These spirits are of varying degrees. For there are no breaks in the creation which represents an apparent descent of the Brahman in gradually lowered forms. Throughout these forms play the divine currents of pravṛ tti and nivṛ tti, the latter drawing to
Itself that which the former has sent forth.2

Deva, jīva and jada (inorganic matter) are, in their real, as opposed to their phenomenal and illusory being, the one Brahman, which appears thus to be other than Itself through its connection with the upādhi or limiting conditions with which ignorance (avidyā) invests it. Therefore all being which are the object of worship are each of them but the Brahman seen though the veil of
avidyā. Though the worshippers of Devas may not know it, their worship is in reality the worship of the Brahman, and hence the Mahānirvāṇ a-Tantra says3 that, “as all streams flow to the ocean, so the worship given to any Deva is received by the Brahman.” On the other hand, those who, knowing this, worship the Devas, do so as manifestations, of Brahman, and thus worship It


1 In like manner, the priest of the Church on earth is called by Malachi
(ii. 7) “angel,” which is as Pseudo-Dionysius AreopagitŠ says: “From his
announcement of the truth and from his desire and office of purifying,
illuminating, and perfecting those committed to his charge”; the brāhmanical
office, in fact, when properly understood and given effect to.
2 The hierarchies have also their reason and uses in Christian theology:
“Totus conatus omnium spirituum est referee Deum. Deus in primis potenter
assimilat quod vicina sunt ei; assimilata deinceps assimilant. Ita pergit
derivatis deitatis ab ordine in ordinem et ab hierarchia in hierarchiam et a
melioribus creaturis in deteriores pro capacitate cujusque in deificationem
omnium.” (“Coletus de Coelesti Hierarchia Dionysii AreopagitŠ,” chap, iii).
3 Chapter 11, verse 50, a common statement which appears in the
Bhagavadgitā and elsewhere.


mediately. The sun, the most glorious symbol in the physical world, is the māyik vesture of Her who is “clothed with the sun.”

In the lower ranks of the celestial hierarchy are the Devayonis, some of whom are mentioned in the opening verses of the first chapter of the text. The Devas are of two classes: “unborn” (ajāta)—that is, those which have not, and those which have (sādhya) evolved from humanity as in the case of King Nahusa, who became Indra. Opposed to the divine hosts are the Asura, Dānavā, Daitya, Rākṣ asa, who, with other spirits, represent the tamasik or demonic element in creation. All
Devas, from the highest downwards, are subordinate to both time and karma. So it is said, “Salutation to Karma, over which not even Vidhi (Brahmā), prevails” (Namastat karmabhyovidhirapi na yebhyah prabhavati). 1 The rendering of the term “Deva” as “God”2
has led to a misapprehension of Hindu thought. The use of the term “angel” may also mislead, for though the world of Devas has in some respects analogy to the angelic choirs,3 the Christian conception of these Beings,


1 And again:
Ye samastā jagatsṛ ṣ ṭ isthitisamhāra kārinah
Te’pi kāleṣ u liyante kālo hi balavattarah.
((Even all those who are the cause of the creation, maintenance, and destruction
of the world disappear in time because time is more strong than they).
2 Though, also, as Coletus says (“De Coelesta Dionysii Hierarchia,” chap.
xii. 8) the Angels have been called " Gods”; “Quod autem angeli Dii vocantur
testatur iliud geneseos dictum Jacob a viro luctatore,” etc.
3 Particularly, as I have elsewhere shown, with such conception of the
celestial hierarchies as is presented by the work of the Pseudo-Dionysius on
that subject writtell under the influence of Eastern thought (Stephen Bar
Sudaili and others). As to the Christian doctrine on the Angels, see Suarez,
“De Angelis.” The patristic doctrine is summarised by Petavius “De Angelis,”

their origin and functions, does not include, but in fact excludes, other ideas connoted by the Sanskrit term.

The pitṛ s, or “Fathers,” are a creation (according to some) separate from the predecessors of humanity, and are, according to others, the lunar ancestry who are addressed in prayer with the Devas. From Brahma, who is known as the “Grandfather,” Pitā Mahā of the human
race, issued Marichi, Atri, and others, his “mental sons”: the Agniṣ vāttāh, Saumsaya, Haviṣ mantah, Usmapāh, and other classes of Pitṛ s, numbering, according to the Mārkaṇ ḍ eya Purāṇ a, thirty-one. Tarpaṇ am, or oblation, is daily offered to these pitṛ s. The term is also applied
to the human ancestors of the worshipper generally up to the seventh generation to whom in śrāddha (the obsequial rites) piṇ ḍ a and water are offered with the mantra “svadhā.”

The Ṛṣis are seers who know, and by their knowledge are the makers of Śāstra and “see” all mantras. The word comes from the root ṛṣ;1 Ṛṣati-prāpnoti sarvam ̣ mantraṃ jnānena paśyati sangsārapārangvā, etc. The seven great Ṛ ṣ is or saptaṛ ṣ is of the first manvantara are Marīcī, Atri, Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya, and Vaśiṣ ṭ ha. In other manvantaras there are other
saptaṛ ṣ is. In the present manvantara the seven are Kāśyapa, Atri, Vaśiṣ tha, Viśvāmitra, Gautama, Jamadagni, Bharadvāja. To the Ṛ ṣ is the Vedas were revealed. Vyāsa taught the Ṛ gveda so revealed to Paila, the Yajurveda to Vaisampayana, the Sāmaveda to
Jaimini, Atharvāveda to Sumantu, and Itihāsa and

Dogm, tom. III. The cabalistic names of the nine orders as given by Archangelus
at p. 728 of his “Interpretationes in artis Cabalistice scriptores“ 1587).
1 Śabdakalpadruma.

Purāṇ a to Sūta. The three chief classes of Ṛṣis are the Brahmaṛṣi, born of the mind of Brahma, the Devaṛṣi of lower rank, and Rājaṛṣi or Kings who became Ṛṣis through their knowledge and austerities, such as Janaka, Ṛ tapārṇ a, etc. The Śrutaṛṣi are makers of Śastras, as Śuśruta. The Kāndaṛ ṣ i are of the Karmakānda, such as Jaimini.

The Muni, who may be a Ṛṣi, is a sage. Muni is so called on account of his mananam (mananāt munirucyate). Mananam is that thought, investigation, and discussion which marks the independent thinking mind. First there is Śravanam, listening; then Mananam, which is the thinking or understanding, discussion upon, and testing of what is heard as opposed to the mere acceptance on trust of the lower intelligence. These two are followed by Nididhyāsanaṃ , which is
attention and profound meditation on the conclusions (siddhānta) drawn from what is so heard and reasoned upon. As the Mahabharata says, “The Vedas differ, and so do the Smṛ tis. No one is a muni who has no independent opinion of his own (nāsau muniryasya mataṃ na bhinnam).”

The human being is called jīva1—that is, the embodied Ātmā possessed by egoism and of the notion that it directs the puryaṣ taka, namely, the five organs of action (karmendriya), the five organs of perception (jnānendriya), the fourfold antahkarana or mental self (Manas, Buddhi, Ahaṃ kāra, Citta), the five vital airs (Prāṇa), the five elements, Kāma (desire), Karma (action and its
results), and Avidyā (illusion). When these false notions


1 That is specially so as all embodiments, whether human or not, of the
Paramātmā are jīva.

are destroyed, the embodiment is destroyed, and the wearer of the māyik garment attains nirvāṇ a. When the jīva is absorbed in Brahman, there is no longer any jīva remaining as such.
















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